RISE & FALL OF THE RAJAPAKSE REGIME – IS A REVIVAL POSSIBLE?
Posted on May 12th, 2015
By GOMIN DAYASRI
Rise and fall of the Rajapakse regime is a sequel to War & Peace – not in the style of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel: instead a version tropicalized and condensed.
Triumph at war brought Rajapakse to the forefront in the South of Sri Lanka, with a victory that produced mammoth support in 2010, after a squeaky win in 2005.
North that benefitted more in regaining its lost freedom and democracy, the restoration of facilities destroyed by the terrorists, never forgave Rajapakse for overcoming the pride they took in their home grown terrorism that formed rich folk lore in the peninsula – however devastating and cruel it was – northerners led inaudible cheering squads in its favour. Beneath it, is their intense dislike of the majority Sinhalese making reconciliation a task more difficult?
They bided time and stung back to end his rule by the exercise of the same franchise that Rajapakse secured and restored to them. He nevertheless won the south again in 2015 but lost the election due to a monolithic northern bloc vote. That makes Sri Lanka a truly functional democracy where terrorism remains an under current in the north – notwithstanding western critics.
Peace brought his downfall. President under went a ‘right royal’ change of personality, after the glory associated with the war victory; made him visualise he is immortal in leadership and his subjects would cry hurrah and accept any dodgy ruling he decreed. Still suffering from that hangover, though in retreat, it’s gradually easing. He needs to earth his feet on the green grass on this emerald isle.
Convinced himself presidency was a legacy of a life time – over estimated his own renown, unmindful the existing four year term had irked the new voters – firmly anti establishment- had never in their lifetime witnessed but UPFA administrations in office, which was sickening to younger minds.
Treasury and the Central Bank manoeuvred his defeat by causing economic hardships targeting the common man who voted for Rajapakse with both hands, while relief was lavishly extended to the sectors that traditionally never voted for him. The zombies of the sunshine budget of 2014 belonged to a class that lived in the clouds as the goodies were delivered long after the results of election were released. Rajapakse never realized his own palace guards skewed him alive in a deranged government that was in disarray. This meant thumping majorities in the south gained previously in 2010 narrowed precariously in 2015. He was dependent on large majorities in the southern constituencies that never materialised in 2015 to offset the northern avalanche.
Mahinda Rajapakse still is singularly the most popular politician in the south. His popularity was of a restrictive nature but after the war it rocketed in the south and spread across barriers of age, sex, religion, class and party politics. His public image grew with his effervescent charm, as he is a master of public relations. Mahinda Rajapakse is Sri Lanka’s greatest achiever in modern history for restoring peace to a troubled island by exterminating the worse of terrorism.
He lost his balance in his second term and the sycophants took him on an ego trip they designed for their benefit. He fell for it and took the fun ride; yet he was mindful never to permit the interest of the nation to be squandered in the hands of foreign marauders. Rajapakse is the beneficiary and sufferer of these twin ramifications.
The sycophants around the palace gloated, after the war, to make him feel bloated, amidst the ecstasy of the people rejoicing, foreseeing the ability of living a life of normalcy without terrorism at the doorstep. Overdoing was the trend, originating from giant billboards spouting massive cut outs to large retinues that accompanied him around the globe in seized national carriers; it was reverence in the palace to veneration in the office.
Thrived on the theme, ‘King can do no Wrong’ on which His Excellency placed reliance. Fair play and equal treatment had slipped out of the palace premises and was found hanging in the temple trees around the garden.
Rajapakse lived beyond the tolerable limits of overwhelming gratitude. Regime took gratitude for granted and thought it was perpetual. Fear of war was gone; safety precautions were lax to mean any act – proper or otherwise – were justifiable in peacetime for having won the war; validated entry passes to the sycophants as though the expiry date extended to eternity.
Sycophants thought it was going to be a life long romance as many now face inquiry, which if handled, by the Attorney General’s Department will never see an end as in the cast iron case against the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation during the previous administration.
At such a time wrote an article called ‘Yes Mr President’ mocking life and time at the palace, which irritated the sycophants that stood guard. So wrote the late S.L. Gunasekera more passionately. The great man was more rationale than his sickening sycophants. He expressed he is allergic to reading.
A scintilla of that vicious inflated germ still remains; he does not take the people into confidence and talks in inane riddles, leave much to speculation that give leads to guessing games. It’s the IOU’s that he collects in retirement from the unwanted that could paralyse him in the future.
SLFP May Day rally displayed the faithful of the present hierarchy of Sirisena cheering lustily at the mention of the Rajapakse name in the park revealing the depth of his popularity. It was otherwise when the lady was named who is said to have left early after seeing/hearing the reaction. Sirisena made a note of it and agreed to talk to Rajapakse.
At the next general election the contest in a nutshell is between Mahinda Rajapakse the individual, against the UNP with its multiple alliances. Ironically, Chandrika Kumaranatunga did not think Mahinda Rajapakse was presidential material and Mahinda Rajapakse never considered Maitripala Sirisena as a contender for Presidency?
Mahinda Rajapakse in overcoming terrorism has his name written boldly in history and Maitripala Sirisena for reducing the prestige of the President in his first 100 days has earned a footnote. It shows when opportunity strikes leadership gives rise. Chandrika learnt her place in history expressed by her own people at the May Day rally.
Sirisena’s performance in 100 days may not be remarkable but has grown in stature in office in a limited time frame. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” a quote from Mao Zedong, upholding the legacy of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. Here in Sri Lanka democratically, ‘power grows out of the office of its holders’.
After 19A – the offices of the Prime Minister [UNP] and President [SLFP] become the joint power points. They combined to form a triumvirate taking on board the office of the Leader of the Opposition [SLFP]. Strange bed-fellers, out of necessity, snuggle coy in bed. Such abnormal sleeping arrangements are not congenial to public health being downright queer but it did produce results in the passing of the 19th amendment for the government.
When the prime opposition merges with a weak government for the love of office, the game is no longer a friendly brawl between cowboys and crooks as played by naive schoolboys but a dowdy democracy where some political outlaws knowingly function in the office of the sheriff. It has kept many a suspect away from inquiry on becoming the holder of office- a safe haven more comfortable than an imprisoned hospital ward.
Triumvirate coordinated the work thus – play on fear and offer the comfort of ministerial office to overcome it. Brought success temporarily –but could vanquish the SLFP that might morph into a rival alliance led by Rajapakse if nomination is denied. An alliance is already in the hunt for the plum.
John Kerry visited to give a Yankee thumbs up to the present government. American foreign policy is in search of friendly marionettes rather than sturdy democrats. They find a servile threesome in Colombo and Kerry descended to pat them on the back. What an achievement! After touching the Queens hands in the raw to feel the palm of the Vice President of USA – fits Robert Knox’s description of a local farm hand being fit to hold post of a king after the mud is washed off!
19A was chopped and chipped, sliced and spliced en route to receiving the Speaker’s assent. Final product was the shadow of the original script but was overwhelmingly approved since the triumvirate successfully attracted the tender loins of opposition MPs’. It overwhelmed Mahinda Rajapakse comprehensively to make his May Day cry sound as helpless as a pilot in distress. 19A dented the onward march of Rajapakse with the ayes in parliament.
Wickremasinghe is no Rajapakse but has powerful friends in New Delhi and Washington interested that his administration remains intact – will give a re-insurance cover to the present government from a distance. That can be the undoing of the UNP, as it cannot meet the patriotic call of Rajapakse if he desires to unleash his trump card.
Wickremasinghe’s best bet is to watch a divided SLFP tear each other and to emerge as the winner in a hung parliament and make the supportive fraction of the SLFP join him to form a national government along with the minor parties. Is it likely to be a government in office for one term? He is troubled by a falling economy and rising prices that hurt voters – same factors that ultimately undid Rajapakse.
Limping into a third position is Sirisena’s SLFP at the forthcoming election if he does not align with Rajapakse or Wickremasinghe. Sirisena is obliged to the UNP for making him the president and tilts that way. SLFP is over loaded with much junk that people will not vote but Rajapakse might volunteer to carry such rubbish friendly to him. This could become UNP’s main weapon of mass destruction. But, then look at the cabinet Ranil Wickremasinghe presides over? Will Rajapakse be able to accumulate votes for candidates who have robbed the country to enter parliament to rob again at the appropriate time!!
To name the winner is a tough call and is too early to predict though currently UNP has the edge. Their rule in the next 100 days will tell more, as they drop more votes